ABCC Flash Brexit Update – 12 March 2019 - UK and EU Agree to ‘Legally Binding Changes’ to Brexit Deal
- In a late night press conference on 11 March, UK PM Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced an agreement to ‘legally binding’ assurances to the Northern Irish backstop – the most contentious issue in May’s Brexit Deal.
- Two supplementary documents to May’s Brexit deal have been agreed by both sides:
- a ‘joint legally binding instrument’ on the Withdrawal Treaty which would enable the UK to start a ‘formal dispute’ with the EU if it felt the EU were keeping the UK tied to the backstop indefinitely; and
- a ‘joint statement’ to the existing political declaration on a future UK/EU relationship, with a commitment to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020 – the planned end date of the UK’s transitional withdrawal period.
- A third document known as a ‘unilateral declaration’ will be put forward by the UK government, outlining the UK’s ability to leave the backstop arrangement unilaterally should negotiations for a future UK/EU relationship fail.
- European Commission President Juncker warned he is “crystal clear about the [UK’s] choice – it is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all.”
- The House of Commons will vote on Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Deal, taking into account the above changes, on Tuesday evening 12 March (London time).
- Ahead of this ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament, the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will publish legal advice on whether the UK would still be bound to the backstop indefinitely. His advice is critical to May’s ability to pass her deal through Parliament.
- PM May has now called on MPs to back the deal saying, “Now is the time to come together to back this improved Brexit deal and deliver on the instruction of the British people.”
- To pass her deal, May must secure backing from her Brexiteer backbench and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party.
- Despite immediate criticism of the announcement by Labour’s front bench, May will also attempt to secure backing from a number of Labour MPs, with a promise to keep EU labour and environmental standards, post-Brexit.
- If May’s deal is passed this evening (London time), the UK will remain on course to leave the EU on 29 March.
- Please refer to the ABCC’s 11 March update for details on what could happen if the vote fails to pass.
- 17 days remain until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.
The ABCC and Brexit
The ABCC will continue to follow these developments closely in the coming weeks. We look forward to keeping members up to date with the very latest from London and what it possibly means for the Australian-British business community.
If you would like to receive more frequent Brexit updates or have any questions, please feel free to contact our office on firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Paul O’Hagan
Paul O’Hagan is the ABCC’s General Manager in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Prior to joining the ABCC, Paul was Senior Political and Economic Advisor to the U.S. Government in London, covering Brexit.